by Cara Gardner

The Center For Justice (CFJ) is a non-profit law firm that represents people who would normally not have the resources for legal counsel. The organization works on issues such as public disclosure, civil rights and family law. But despite complicated and often disheartening cases, the CFJ knows a lot about joy, especially when it comes to kids. Jim Sheehan, executive director of the CFJ, looks forward each summer to the last week in July, when the CFJ lets local kids get their kicks during a week-long soccer day camp. What's a law firm doing holding a summer sports camp? Well according to Sheehan, it's only fair.

"The soccer camp got started about four years ago," Sheehan explains. "We wanted to provide the availability for kids who couldn't afford sports camps in the summer. They can be really expensive. Also, there are a lot of kids who are [in their teens] who really want to do something and be philanthropic, but don't know how to do it. They don't have money but they may have a love and expertise in [something] like soccer."

Sheehan says about 10 local high school students volunteer a week of their summer each year to coach children in the program.

"It's important to provide the opportunity for kids to go to camp, but equally important to provide people the opportunity to share and give toward others," Sheehan says.

The soccer camp is available from as young as five to older kids who haven't had the opportunity to try the sport out.

"It's great to catch them early," Sheehan notes, of the littlest participants. "We can see who loves the sport and encourage them to get involved with Spokane Youth Sports. We want them to use it as an outlet where they can have a passion."

About 50 kids signed up this year.

"There are both boys and girls playing together [because] at that age it doesn't matter," Sheehan explains. "They have different stations where the [coaches] teach a particular skill, then they have group games."

The CFJ gets help from local businesses, which donate food for snacks during each day of the camp. The organization also gives out T-shirts and soccer balls to each child. Sheehan says it's not just the kids coaching and playing that benefit from the camp.

"I think it's really neat to see parents come and watch their kids -- some even sit there the whole time. They are really appreciative."

On the last day of camp, lawyers and staff from the CFJ join the participants for a BBQ.

"The most fulfilling thing for me is just providing the opportunity for kids to express themselves physically," Sheehan says. "And for them to begin to learn what it means to be on a team and work together for a common goal. An athletic team is a community, and if we're going to change our culture we have to work together as a community. That's the thing for me. That and just going down there to see the smiles and squeals."

The Center for Justice: 835-5211

Publication date: 08/07/03

Festival of Fair Trade @ Community Building

Sun., Nov. 27, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
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